This is a Tibetan Prayer Wheel, also known as Mani Wheels by the Tibetans. It is made of a gold plated brass cylindrical body, mounted in a wooden handle. The cylinder is embossed with the Buddhist eight auspicious objects and Tibetan mantra script. With the help of a chain-weighted with a conch shell, the cylinder can be kept turning with a slight rotation of the wrist.
The top of the wheel is removable to reveal a mantra roll in the protective case. The mantra is a tightly wound scroll made of thin paper, printed with many copies of the prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum” in Tibetan script. Buddhists believe that each turn of the cylinder generates as much merit as reciting the mantras out loud.
There are many types of Tibetan prayer wheels. Large prayer wheels can be found mounted in rows along the pathways to be spun by people entering a shrine, a form of spiritual practice called circumambulation. There is wind- and water-powered wheels as well. However, small hand-held wheels like this one are the most common. Tibetan people carry them around for hours, and even on long pilgrimages, spinning them any time they have a hand free.
Found all over Tibet and in areas influenced by Tibetan culture, the use of a Tibetan Prayer Wheel is an ancient and mystical practice that has long been popular with Buddhists in these areas for its ability to bless the environment, spread spiritual blessings and well being, transform bad luck to good luck, promote healing, increase compassion, and assist practitioners on their journeys to enlightenment.
Quoting Lama Zopa, Rinpoche: “Just touching and turning a prayer wheel brings incredible purification and accumulates unbelievable merit.”